Having Dinner at Someone Else's Table–The University of Kentucky
Oct 25, 2013
-- By Mallory Weber, HungerU Crew
During our visit to the Big Blue Nation, the HungerU Crew was able to meet some awesome individuals from the UK Center for Community Outreach. While we learned about many of the impressive things that they are doing, I found one that sticks out to me. This coming week, November 18-23, UK will recognize Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. One of their activities will be the OXFAM hunger banquet. Now, if you have never attended a hunger banquet, I highly encourage you to. If you don't know what a hunger banquet is, allow me to share.
In July of 2010 I attended the Washington Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., a National FFA Organization conference. While there, I was with about 250 other high school students from across the country. Our 'theme' for the week was "We Must Because We Can," something that still sticks with me today. Let me share with you something else from that week...
One evening we were told to meet outside the ballroom for dinner. As we arrived downstairs we were handed a piece of construction paper that was orange, pink or black. Later we would find out that these pieces of construction paper would indicate what our dining experience would be for the night. We would be attending a hunger banquet.
A very small number of us, about 16, were placed in the upper class. We were seated at two tables in the corner of the ballroom. We had the full, high-class dining experience complete with cloth napkins, candles, a three-course meal with dessert, and all nine forks. (I may be exaggerating slightly with the number of forks.)
A little bit larger group, roughly 75 I'm sure, were designated 'middle class' for the night. They had a taco bar provided and had paper plates and plastic silverware to use, and folding tables like you would find in an elementary lunch room.
The rest of the students, the vast majority, were the 'low class' for the night. Their dinner? Rice. Their plates? They didn't have any. This group of students had to sit on the floor, and their rice was brought out to them on plastic serving trays, in heaping piles. Their silverware? Whatever they could manage to create out of the little bit of tinfoil under the rice.
I remember being in awe. I felt ... guilty. And I hadn't even gotten any say in the matter, it was all due to a pink piece of construction paper. Those of us who were part of the 'upper class' kept asking our servers if we could give some of our food to the students having rice for dinner, but it wasn't allowed. I remember feeling even more terrible because I was helpless. What was worse was that we were given SO much food; we couldn't even eat it all. I felt so terrible leaving food on my plate when my friends were eating rice ... with their hands, and I couldn't even figure out what fork to use.
That evening was over three years ago, and I can still remember the feeling. The feeling of guilt for wasting food. The feeling of wanting so desperately to help. I remember wanting to trade places with someone so they could eat part of my three-course dinner. That night was on one of the most impactful nights of my life, and all because the things happening in the world around us were put into perspective. People around the world are having only rice for endless days in a row, while someone else is wasting half the food on their plate every day. Do we ever stop to think about that?
Students in the 'lower class' were able to help themselves to the taco bar after all was said and done. However, that didn't change what our eyes had been opened up to. In the United States, we are very fortunate to have the most secure food source in the world, but we still have 1 in 6 people going hungry every day. 1 in 4 children are in a food insecure household. Why? Why? We have the power to change that. We have the ability. Start being more conscious about your own food waste. Start donating to canned food drives instead of assuming someone else will. Donate your time to a soup kitchen. Get a fundraiser going in your community, your church, your school and donate funds to a local pantry. 'Adopt' a family in another country. 'Adopt' a child in another country. Be an advocate. Keep yourself aware, make others aware.
If you ever have the chance to attend a hunger banquet, don't hesitate to do so. Please. Here's a perfect chance if you're in Lexington, Ky. this week!